The end is here. It’s Batman Eternal #52!
Writer: James Tynion IV
Consulting Writers: Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes, Tim Seeley and Kyle Higgins
Artists: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Robson Rocha, Guillermo Ortego, Tim Seeley, David LaFuente, Ray Fawkes
Colorists: Allen Passalaqua, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, John Rauch
Letterer: Steve Wands
Let’s set the scene. Cluemaster is walking through Gotham City, on the phone to his daughter. It’s the Night of the Owls, when the Court of Owls first made their presence known by sending out assassins to murder as many of the top-ranking city officials as possible. Stephanie is scared about getting gotten by one of the assassins, but takes solace from the fact that Batman would probably save her. Cluemaster scowls but plays along, hanging up the phone before he has to get into an extended Batman roleplaying game. It turns out that he’s actually way ahead of everybody else here, and is at the lair of the Owls already. Breaking in, he demands an audience with them all, because he knows a way for them to take out Batman. It’s a very daring move from him, although I will say that their lair has massive 20-foot owl statues everywhere, which was probably the biggest giveaway here.
Arthur heads to the attic, as that’s where owls always enjoy hanging out most, but finds that they’ve all been poisoned already. He bemoans his fate, not thinking that he could just loot the place and make loads of money from that – but then he’s interrupted by the arrival of Lincoln March, Batman’s brother. Lincoln is in a pretty reasonable mood, it seems, and he’s just inherited a whole bunch of money, so Cluemaster starts to tell him all about his plans. Alright, so I feel a bit uncharitable now, because I thought Owlman had just walked straight into Cluemaster’s plan when actually they had been working together in some form from the start. My apologies, Owlie.
In the present day, Lincoln is standing on Cluemaster’s dead body, crowing – owling? – about how it was a great plan, but needed a better final boss involved. Bruce tells him to shut up, because he’s our surrogate, but Lincoln sadly refuses. He activates his jetpack and flies full force straight into Bruce, taking them both off the tower and over the streets of Gotham. He starts ramping up another speech, which inspires Bruce to rip a shard of glass out his own back and stab his little brother right in the engine. They hurtle out of control and smash into an office tower, which in any normal story would kill them both.
The Bat-Fam are still dealing with the people of Gotham, unaware their dad just got thrown off a tower and into a skyscraper. They’re all doing their hero thing apart from Jason, who has had a roof collapse on him and so starts recording his last will and testament. That gets right to Batgirl, who swerves her bike off and heads to go rescue him. I’m just glad Dick Grayson wasn’t here to see all this.
Meanwhile, Catwoman and Croc – who once again isn’t dressed as a Pharoah, worse luck – don’t know what they should do about the whole “Gotham is destroyed” thing. Jim Gordon, on the other hand, is totally ready – he’s done a bunch of prep, he’s got a functioning walkie-talkie because he’s a kid of the 70s, and he’s ready to step up for Gotham’s sake.
Back on the street, Owlman is looking for his brother, who is taking a quick moment to put on a new shirt and put a Bat-Bandana round his head to hide his identity. Always forward-thinking, that Bruce Wayne. Owlman reveals he was there during Zero Year when Batman took on the Riddler, although he apparently wasn’t quite as impressed as everyone else. Batman charges him with a stop sign from behind, but owls keep their heads on a swivel and Lincoln catches it. They have as much of a fight as Bruce is capable of delivering, but Lincoln gets the upper hand and starts choking out big brother. Lincoln is triumphed, and Batman has been defeated…
Except every TV screen in Gotham simultaneously lights up with the BatSymbol at once, and Jim Gordon’s voice comes over the city on loudspeaker. He tells everybody that this is Batman’s town, and there’s no reason to be scared because they can all fight together. From across the city rooftops, countless Bat-Signals launch up into the sky, because everybody’s just become a deputy Batman.
That includes fleeing Stephanie Brown, who is distracted by the signals and almost gets hit by a car, only to be rescued by a bystander. I sense a heroic return to battle is imminent.
Inspiration speech or not Red Hood is just about ready to die all by himself, the way it’s always been intended to happen, when Batgirl smashes through the wall to rescue him. It’s a short-lived one though, because her bike actually hits a support beam and causes the roof to collapse even more – the last-minute arrival of the Talon saves the day though. Talon, if you’re wondering is one of the assassins of the court of owls who was redeemed and became a vigilante. “What a useful character he would’ve been to have had in the cast of this series! “You’re probably thinking. Yeah, I agree. At least he bothered to show up in the final issue.
All the other heroes who couldn’t be arsed to help before have all shown up too – Batwoman, Black Canary, Katana. Could’ve used you fifty-one issues ago! Meanwhile, Killer Croc and Catwoman have decided to be heroes after all, and they start rescuing kids (and police officers?) from burning buildings. Maggie Sawyer, in her first proactive moment of the series, tries to arrest them all, only for Jason Bard to stop her on account of Gotham literally being on fire right now and maybe there’s a bigger picture to follow.
Owlman isn’t too happy about all this heroism, which distracts him long enough for Batman to hit him with a whopper of a headbutt that takes his mask off. That provokes Owlman into finally attempting a kill strike, but he’s hit in the head with a bucket of paint and then smacked hard by an arriving Stephanie Brown, who finally announces that she’s here to save the day. Lincoln recognises her from Cluemaster’s kitchen, so it must’ve been Lincoln she thought was Bruce Wayne all this time! You should go to Specsavers, Steph. Owlman tries to get to his feet but sees the extended Bat-Fam all assembling behind Bruce, led by Jim Gordon. Panicking, he tunnels into the sewers in an attempt to escape.
Bruce wants to follow him into the sewer, where all his favourite battles have taken place. Jim refuses though, because Bruce really needs a lie down, an ice bath, and a diet coke.
One week later, Vicki Vale returns, as Jason Bard shows up at her office to talk about the story she’s still not bothered to write about how corrupt he is. She says she’s just working through some more revisions, but clearly she’s still trying to protect him because she’s actively the worst. He says she’ll need to do another draft though, because he’s just resigned as commissioner and is willing to go on record about how he’s awful. She takes him up on that offer and they go to a nearby bar to talk through the details, and frankly I hope they both get die before they get there. What a crap storyline which went nowhere.
At the Egyptian, Batman lands on the roof after following another signal being shone by Catwoman. He dismantles the signal, only to find… Croc… back in the Pharoah outfit! I’m so delighted they got him back in the gear one last time, you don’t even know. What a prince amongst lizards! Catwoman walks out and Batman officially breaks up with her, unaware that she clearly broke up with him several months ago. She heads off for a business meeting with Penguin, and the cycle continues again.
Next we head to the ruins of Arkham, where Corrigan and Batwing meet up to discuss the possibility of a spin off series. Corrigan wants to call it “The Midnight Shift”, which’ll never get over. Batwing says he’ll think about it, and walks off. Did this become a series? I feel like it did, but only went about five issues before it was cancelled? That sounds about fair, to be honest.
Jim Gordon gets to have a nice sit down at Batgirl’s house, as she gets him a Scotch. She sits down with him and talks about her character arc through the first fifteen issues, before it got dropped, her character completely changed because of the Burnside reinvention of the character in her solo series, and she never got back round to helping her incarcerated pa. Jason, in turn, is at a bar, trying to ask her out. He deletes the message and heads back to his own team-up series instead. Have fun with Scott Lobdell, champ.
Cullen, Steph, and Harper are all together in Harper’s apartment, mucking about as before. Tim walks in and starts hacking Harper’s computer, which he considers to be an icebreaker. He’s there to thank her for all the work she did and for helping make sure Stephanie didn’t skip out on Gotham, and he gives her a hug. Then Steph walks in and has a bit of awkward sexual chemistry with Tim even though this whole series has been about shipping Tim with Harper. James Tynion IV, will you ever cease?!
If you’re wondering about Lincoln March – when he jumped into the sewers he fell back into the hands of the surviving members of the Court of Owls, somehow, who captured him. They seal him into a coffin deep underground, cryogenically freeze him, and promise to maybe bring him back in a few years if they feel like it. No rush.
Finally, at the end, we come back to Jim Gordon and Batman, standing on a rooftop together. They have a quick catch up before Gordon reveals the real reason for their meeting – there’s another job for them to do. Smiling, they both head out to go take out the next villain in Gotham.
And… that’s it! That’s a year of comics, and a few years of recapping over at Shelfdust in order to get the whole thing covered. It’s been good, it’s been not so good, but more than anything else it’s been: one hell of a slog. Thanks to anyone (anyone??) who has been reading along with the recaps here on the site – I hope they might have proven to be fun in some way! I promise that we will NEVER do anything like this again. I’m off to go have a well-earned lie down and burn my copies of Future’s End before I do something I’ll really regret…
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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